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VIENNA – A delicate EU mission to Iran this week failed to secure a commitment from Tehran’s new hard-line administration to resume negotiations on reviving a faltering nuclear deal, according to officials. EU.

“They are not yet ready to commit to Vienna,” said a senior EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Instead, Iran has pledged to meet with EU officials in Brussels in the coming weeks to discuss the details of the texts on the table at the end of the last round of talks in June, which took held in Vienna.

“It’s not a bad idea that we sit down in a long meeting with the new [Iranian] delegation and we go through all the texts… and we clarify with the new delegation the different questions they may have, ”said the senior EU official.

Nuclear talks have stalled since radical cleric Ebrahim Raisi was elected Iranian president in June. Iran reiterated that it was ready to resume talks “soon” but did not set a date, leaving observers increasingly pessimistic.

In order to restart the process, Enrique Mora, the EU’s chief coordinator for the Iranian nuclear talks, traveled to Tehran on Thursday to meet Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani for the first time since. the start of the new administration.

Iran has dramatically ramped up its nuclear program in recent months, enriching uranium to higher levels and accumulating enough military-grade uranium that experts say it could build a nuclear bomb in just a few months – If he chose it.

These developments combined with Iran’s stalling of negotiations fuel the concern of other signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the Iran nuclear deal is officially called, as well as the United States, which is are withdrawn from the agreement under former President Donald Trump. .

The original agreement reduced international sanctions against Iran in exchange for commitments to curb nuclear activity.

“We are approaching a point where returning to compliance with the JCPOA will not by itself reap the benefits of the JCPOA, and this is because Iran has used this time to advance its nuclear program by various means. manners, “said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken after a meeting Wednesday with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Washington.

Despite the lack of commitment on a date, the senior EU official said Tehran has “absolutely decided to return to Vienna”.

However, another high-ranking diplomat, who is familiar with the negotiations and also spoke on condition of anonymity, called for caution.

“It seems like a no-win situation and I am very worried,” the official told POLITICO. “I hope I’m wrong, but if things continue like this, we’re not getting anywhere.”

The possibility of upcoming talks in Brussels, the official added, “cannot replace a resumption of indirect talks between Iran and the United States in Vienna, with all other signatories to the agreement.”

The diplomat expressed a widespread fear that Iran was just buying time: “I suspect the Brussels talks could be a mere distraction. ”

In addition to Mora’s diplomatic push into Tehran, Blinken held a series of meetings in Washington this week with Iran at the top of the agenda. In addition to Lapid, Blinken met with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Highlighting the depth of concern, Blinken suggested that the United States had not ruled out a military option if Iran did not change course. “We will examine all options to meet the challenge posed by Iran,” he said.

Experts appear divided over whether Iran is stepping up its nuclear program to gain influence before a return to the Vienna talks, or whether it has lost interest in returning to compliance and is ready to endure continued US sanctions.

Iran will eventually return to negotiations “because it does not want to be seen in the eyes of Russia and China as the inflexible party at fault,” said Ali Vaez, senior advisor and director of the Iran project at the International Crisis Group . “But if it is Vienna with bolder new red lines, the dead end is guaranteed.”

Vaez told POLITICO that all parties need to take a new approach.

“Each should select two or three priorities that they deem essential to secure and, in return, be flexible on the higher demands on the other side,” he said. “They won’t be able to get everything they want, but maybe they can get enough of what they need. ”

Since President Joe Biden took office in the United States, there have been six rounds of talks with Iran in Vienna aimed at bringing the two countries back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.

During the talks, the other parties to the deal – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia – served as intermediaries between the United States and Iran.

The nuclear deal aims to prevent Iran from building an atomic weapon. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful.

Jacopo Barigazzi contributed reporting.


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